February 21. 2024. 7:07

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Czech opposition threatens to sue government if public media changes pass


The opposition party ANO (Renew) threatened the government with a lawsuit due to proposed changes in the selection of councillors of the two public broadcasting media – Czech Television and Czech Radio.

The opposition parties blame the government for efforts to control public media outlets.

However, the current draft amendment also breaches the EU audiovisual and media services directive, said Czech MP Jaroslava Pokorná Jermanová (ANO, Renew).

Indeed, the proposal restricts what type of organisations can submit proposals for candidates to public broadcasters’ boards. The proposal says that organisations have to be ten years old to be able to nominate a candidate.

“If the amendment is approved in this form, we will initiate a complaint to the European Commission,” Pokorná Jermanová said on Wednesday after the bill was discussed in the Czech parliament.

Among other changes included in the proposed amendment, both chambers of the Czech Parliament should be involved in selecting councillors. Currently, the councillors are elected by the lower chamber only. According to Pokorná Jermanová, such a change is unconstitutional.

“With the law, you are introducing practices that you criticise when they happen in other countries, for example, in Hungary,” another MP from the ANO party, Alena Schillerová, said. She also urged the government not to “follow the path of authoritarian states.”

According to the government, the amendment will only strengthen the independence and stability of the public media, as it will be less dependent on the current composition of the lower chamber of the Czech parliament.

Wednesday’s debate on public media broadcasters’ boards lasted over four hours without outcome. The government will have another try to push the amendment through parliament on Friday.

Though a majority in the Czech parliament backs the bill’s proposal, the opposition often blocks voting with long speeches and breaks, making it impossible to vote on specific files.

(Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)